Karnataka pushes for Kannada primacy in banks

Karnataka pushes for Kannada primacy in banks

Banks have been asked to ensure their employees know Kannada, have websites in Kannada and that Kannada should be a part of materials such as challans and application forms.

In a big boost to the #ServiceInMyLanguage campaign, the government has asked banks in the state to give primacy to Kannada in delivery of services to customers, including redoing their signboards to make the local language look prominent. 

This is in response to repeated complaints from customers that bank employees, especially in rural areas, do not speak Kannada, which causes inconvenience. 

Chief Secretary T M Vijay Bhaskar is driving the Kannada push, backed by the Kannada Development Authority (KDA) headed by filmmaker T S Nagabharana. 

Laying emphasis on Kannada in banks was on the agenda of the State Level Bankers’ Committee (SLBC) meeting held recently. Banks have been asked to ensure their employees know Kannada, have websites in Kannada and that Kannada should be a part of materials such as challans and application forms.

“We’ve been telling banks that their branches, especially rural ones, are facing problems arising out of the fact that they have people who don’t know Kannada,” Nagabharana told DH. “Even in urban branches, if banks want their services to be flawless, Kannada should be used, including in ATMs.”

Karnataka has 41 banks (commercial and regional rural banks) and there are 11,286 branches, many of which are located in rural or semi-urban areas. 

“A letter has been sent to all bankers to conduct training programmes for employees, especially those working in the front-end, to make sure they have working knowledge of Kannada,” Syndicate Bank general manager T Manivannan, the SLBC convenor, said. “We’re insisting that Kannada find a place in all application forms. In our bank, for instance, we’ve already started issuing Kannada forms. If not three languages, forms should be issued in Kannada and English at least,” he said. 

Also, the government has asked banks to see if their signboards can have 60% display for Kannada. In November 2019, the BBMP issued a notice to Canara Bank on this front. The bank argued that changing boards for this would lead to “loss of our brand identity and (involve) huge expenditure”.

#ServiceInMyLanguage is a popular campaign demanding service in the local language. In the banking sector, pro-Kannada groups have been rallying for more Kannadigas to get banking jobs through the Institute of Banking Personnel Selection (IBPS). 

In July 2019, Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman announced that recruitment exams for Regional Rural Banks (RRBs) will be held in 13 regional languages, including Kannada. But campaigners continue to press for reverting to the pre-2014 IBPS recruitment rule that mandated proficiency in the local language. Non-Kannadigas bag most jobs because of the focus on Hindi and English, the campaigners argue.

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